LAS VEGAS -- Memphis Grizzlies star Jaren Jackson Jr. said he and his teammates have little choice but to deal with the absence of Ja Morant across the first 25 games of the upcoming season, but Jackson said Morant will still find ways to impact the team during his suspension.
"We just gotta navigate it," Jackson said after Team USA's final day of training camp here in Sin City, and ahead of its first exhibition game in preparation for the FIBA World Cup against Puerto Rico on Monday night. "Obviously, we know that not having Ja is a real big hole to fill, but, you know, he's not, it's not like he's not gonna be around.
"He's gonna give us all the tools to be able to get that done."
Morant was suspended for 25 games without pay in June for "conduct detrimental to the league" after he posed with a firearm in a car during a live-streamed video in May -- a little more than two months after he first posed with a firearm on a livestream in a Denver nightclub.
Morant's suspension also requires him to "meet certain conditions" before he returns to play, and the NBA said he will be ineligible to participate in "any public league or team activities, including preseason games," while he is suspended.
The superstar guard's suspension was only one of several significant things to happen to the Grizzlies this summer. Dillon Brooks, the team's top perimeter defender and vocal leader, wasn't re-signed after a rough first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, while Tyus Jones was shipped to Washington as part of a three-team deal that brought longtime Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart to the Grizzlies.
Smart will be expected to fill in for Morant as the team's starting point guard until the team's talisman can get back on the court, and he will also assume Brooks' role as the top defensive option on the perimeter. Jackson said he has already communicated with Smart and is excited about what his predecessor as the league's Defensive Player of the Year can bring to Memphis next season.
"Oh, it's dope," Jackson said of the Smart addition. "I texted him already. It's great to have someone like that who can play both ends, who's been in a championship environment. We know what he brings to a team, that passion, that heart, and he knows a lot about the game as well. His mind is gonna be working great for the locker room, all that type of stuff. So, great addition."
Jackson said he was also very happy that teammate Desmond Bane was able to come to an agreement on a five-year, $207 million extension with the Grizzlies last month.
"Oh, yeah," Jackson said with a smile and a laugh. "I mean, he got a boatload of money. So, yeah, for sure."
But while Jackson will be focused on the Grizzlies come October when training camp resumes, for the next several weeks, he's zeroed on in his work with Team USA, as it appears he's locked into the starting lineup as the team's center. He said he was pleased about how training camp, which wrapped up Sunday, played out.
"Really good," Jackson said. "We're getting to know each other. Haven't played with each other ever. So getting to know different people. Everybody knows the game really well. Smart point guards, smart players, good coaches. It's been good. We've been playing really well together. A lot of good energy, good talking, the coaches loved it. So we're ready to go."